Category Archives: Jail

Recording An Inmate’s Conversations with Defense Counsel is Unconstitutional

Eavesdropping – (California Penal Code Section 632)

In State v. Couch, the WA Court of Appeals held a jailed defendant’s constitutional rights were violated when jail officials recorded multiple jail calls made between the defendant and counsel, video-recorded several meetings between the defendant and counsel, and opened at least one piece of legal mail.


The State charged Mr. Couch with second degree rape-domestic violence and second degree assault-domestic violence after he allegedly forced his former girlfriend to have sex with him after she broke off their relationship.

Before the trial began, Couch filed a motion to dismiss for governmental misconduct under CrR 8.3(b). Couch claimed that the Grays Harbor County Jail had illegally recorded conversations between him and defense counsel and had opened his legal mail. The trial court held a hearing on the motion and heard testimony.

The trial court denied Couch’s motion to dismiss. Later, the jury convicted Couch of second degree rape and second degree assault. Couch appealed on arguments that state actors unlawfully intruded on his communications with his attorneys and that the trial court erred because it did not require the State to establish the absence of prejudice beyond a reasonable doubt.


The Court of Appeals began by saying the Sixth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant the right to the assistance of counsel, and that right includes the right to confer privately with their attorney. A state actor’s intrusion into private conversations between attorney and defendant violates this right. There is no distinction between an intrusion by jail security and an intrusion by law enforcement.

Furthermore, if a state actor has violated the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right, prejudice to the defendant is presumed. Because the constitutional right to privately communicate with an attorney is a foundational right, the State must be held to the highest burden of proof to ensure that it is protected.

Intruding on confidential attorney-client communications constitutes misconduct under CrR 8.3(b). This court rule states that the trial court may dismiss a criminal prosecution due to governmental misconduct when there has been prejudice to the rights of the accused which materially affect the accused’s right to a fair trial.

The Court of appeals reasoned that state actors intruded on Couch’s communications with his attorneys in violation of his Sixth Amendment right to confer privately with those attorneys. Here, the Grays Harbor County Jail (1) recorded multiple telephone calls between Couch and Rivas, (2) video recorded several meetings between Couch and his attorneys, and (3) opened at least one piece of legal mail.

“Therefore, the trial court was required to presume prejudice to Couch,” said the Court of Appeals. From there, the only question for the trial court – the truly correct legal issue – was whether the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Couch was not prejudiced when addressing Couch’s motion to dismiss. Therefore, the trial court erred in analyzing Couch’s CrR 8.3(b) motion to dismiss.

With that, the Court of Appeals reversed Couch’s conviction and remanded for the trial court to determine whether to dismiss the case or order a new trial with sufficient remedial safeguards.

Jail is a terrible place. Not only are the conditions deplorable, but privileged conversations with attorneys run the risk of being recorded. Please review Making Bail and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Faulty Body Scanners at Whatcom County Jail

X-ray scanners stop over 1,000 illegal items entering prisons - GOV.UK

According to the Bellingham Herald, faulty body scanners at the Whatcom County Jail are letting drugs and other contraband into the lockup and must be replaced.

“Within the last two weeks, we’ve had three overdoses related to fentanyl that’s been smuggled into the facility. This is becoming an increasing problem, and those scanners are one of the main tools that we have to detect contraband, both weapons and drugs being smuggled into the facility by persons coming in to the facility through the booking process.” ~WCSO Undersheriff Doug Chadwick

According to previous Bellingham Herald reporting, those scanners were bought in 2018 and 2019 to keep drugs, weapons, cigarettes and lighters out of the jail. Unfortunately, the company that makes the scanners isn’t servicing or maintaining them. Thus far in 2023 there have been 13 overdoses in Whatcom County jail facilities.
My opinion? These security breaches should not be happening. Hopefully, the newly-passed sales tax to pay for a new Whatcom County jail will bring new and improved scanners. Proposition 4 – which passed by 66% in Whatcom County – was the third jail measure Whatcom County had put before voters since 2015. The 2015 plan was for a 521-bed jail at a cost of $125 million. After voters rejected that proposal, county leaders came back in 2017 with 480 beds and a $110 million price tag. Voters rejected this smaller, cheaper jail even more resoundingly.
Under the law, correctional officers have more leeway to order intrusive searches of inmates in a county jail or prison. Along with body scanners, officers can perform a strip search if the search is related to reasonable objectives, such as safety and security. As a result, a defendant’s Constitutional rights against unlawful search and seizure isn’t available if they’re in custody.
Police can perform strip searches without the factors that would give rise to a suspicion that the arrestee possessed concealed contraband. This is allowed, even though nothing about their case would lead police to believe they had anything dangerous or prohibited on their person. Making matters worse, it’s a felony for an inmate to possess weapons and/or contraband.
Jail is a terrible place. Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Deploying Tear Gas In Jails & Prisons

Dozens Killed in Prison Uprisings in Ecuador | Human Rights Watch

In Snaza v. State, the WA Supreme Court narrowly held in a 5-4 decision that a state statute wrongfully granted a public official outside a county sheriff’s office authority over when police can use tear gas to quell a riot.


Justice Charles Johnson wrote the majority opinion. He started by saying that following waves of protests across the state and country, calling for racial justice and reform of police practices, the Washington Legislature enacted several statutes in 2021 establishing requirements for tactics and equipment used by peace officers.

RCW 10.116.030(1) provides tear gas may not be used “unless necessary to alleviate a present risk of serious harm posed by a: (a) Riot; (b) barricaded subject; or (c) hostage situation.” Subsection (2) imposes specific prerequisites to using tear gas as authorized under subsection (1). For instance, prior to deploying this tactic, law enforcement must exhaust alternatives to the use of tear gas, obtain authorization from a supervising officer, announce to the subjects the intent to use tear gas, and allow sufficient time and space for the subjects to comply with law enforcement’s directives.

In addition to these limits on the use of tear gas, law enforcement must comply with RCW 10.116.030(3), which restricts the use of tear gas as a tactic to suppress riots. This section of the statute says the following:

“In the case of a riot outside of a correctional, jail, or detention facility, the officer or employee may use tear gas only after: (a) Receiving authorization from the highest elected official of the jurisdiction in which the tear gas is to be used, and (b) meeting the requirements of subsection (2) of this section.” ~RCW 10.116.030(3)

Several sheriffs challenged RCW 10.116.030(3)(a), which limits when a sheriff can use tear gas to quell a riot.


The WA Supreme Court held that thelegislature may not interfere with the core functions of a county office. Quelling a riot is a core function of the sheriff’s office. By granting an official outside a sheriff’s office authority over a core function of the sheriff, RCW 10.116.030(3)(a) violated article XI, section 5 of the Washington Constitution.

“Consistent with the rule our cases establish, we conclude quelling riots is a core function of the sheriff’s office. We emphasize discretionary use of lawful force in riot suppression is a core function of the sheriff’s office. This conclusion necessarily follows and is consistent with how our cases determine the nature of an office’s authority.”

“As we have stated, the county sheriff has been responsible for quelling riots since before the ratification of our state constitution . . . This power and function has “belonged to the sheriff at the time our constitution was adopted, and from time immemorial.” ~WA Supreme Court


Justice Gordon McCloud delivered the dissenting opinion. He said the sheriff’s office has never had unfettered discretion to use any means it chose to suppress riots:

“The historical record shows that the legislature limited sheriffs’ discretionary decisions about how to quell riots from the time of statehood. And, of course, the historical record shows that tear gas was not even available at the time of statehood. It necessarily follows that discretionary use of tear gas to suppress riots is not ‘fundamental’ to or ‘inherent’ in the office of sheriff.” ~Justice Gordon McCloud

Jails and prisons are terrible places. Please review Making Bail and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

UW Study Uncovers Acts of Violence Against Federal Detainees

Arizona migrant detention center officers verbally abused detainees, used  excessive force and chemical agents, report alleges |

new report documents the use of pepper spray and physical force used against immigrants detained at the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma. These acts of violence involved detainees engaged in peaceful protest and those with a history of mental illness.

In 2020, for example, a guard reportedly placed his knee on a detainee’s neck, prompting others to chant “Black Lives Matter” and “get your knee off his neck.” The man from Sudan told Tacoma police that guards had twisted back his arms and shoulders to the point where he lost feeling in them. He was eventually placed on suicide watch and taken to a psychiatric facility. He said he would rather die than continue to be held at the detention facility.

One year later, the man reportedly threatened suicide, tying his bedsheets together and attaching them to his upper bunk.

“It became clear that there really were patterns of escalating cycles of uses of force against some specific individuals about whom we were really concerned. And one of those categories was folks facing mental illness.” ~Angelina Godoy, Director, UW Center for Human Rights

Godoy said detainees cannot directly call 911 from inside the detention facility and have almost no way of responding to abuse.

Altogether, the report details 70 incidents from 2015 to 2023 where force was used at the ICE facility in Tacoma. Over the last seven years, that translates to, on average, one incident of force at the facility each month, researchers said.

Researchers primarily relied on government documents, but also on Tacoma police reports, court records, and reports from the activist group La Resistencia to document the uses of force. Even so, researchers point out the records they relied on are incomplete because the agency often fails to either document the incident, or comply with public records laws. The UW Center for Human Rights has pursued litigation against the agency to obtain documents in 28 different cases.

In another incident in 2018, involving a peaceful protest, more than 100 detainees at the ICE detention center in Tacoma went on a hunger strike.

Jesus Chavez testified in court that during the strike he was punched with a closed fist, and that other hunger strikers were choked and thrown against walls. Chavez also said officials refused to take him to the hospital, even though doctors recommended it, but simply gave him painkillers.

Detainees at the ICE facility in Tacoma are there because they are waiting for the outcomes of their immigration proceedings — not because they’ve been charged with a crime.

Efforts to more closely monitor the facility, or shut it down altogether, have been challenged in court. A new law authorizes the state Department of Health to inspect the ICE facility in Tacoma on a regular basis, but GEO Group — the private prison company that runs the facility — promptly sued the state over the legislation.

Godoy pointed to a previous report by the UW Center for Human Rights that showed the ICE detention center in Tacoma keeps detainees in solitary confinement longer than any other ICE facility in the country.

When someone is charged with a crime, they may be incarcerated regardless of their innocence.  If they cannot afford the bond, they have to sit in jail until their case is resolved. Unfortunately, it is irrelevant whether or not the person actually committed the crime at this point. They will languish in jail for at least as long as it takes for their case to be resolved.  This can take months, and in some cases over a year.

Please review my legal guide Making Bail and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are incarcerated pending charges. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Whatcom Sheriff’s Office & Jail Flooded by Inmate

Fire sprinkler system - Wikipedia

. . . just another reason for a new jail.

Last Sunday, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Offices and Jail was flooded by a sprinkler head that was tampered with by an inmate. The flooding caused over $5,000 in estimated damages, the Sheriff’s Office reported.

Corrections deputies quickly learned that the heavy water flow was from a sprinkler head that had been tampered with by an inmate. The amount of water quickly overwhelmed the drains and flooded the entire first floor of the jail. Corrections Deputies, Sergeants and inmate workers pulled together to mitigate the water flow and guide it to drainage.

The water began seeping into the Sheriff’s Office administrative space, which is located below the jail. Large volumes of water penetrated portions of the Sheriff’s Office ceiling, causing significant damage to interview rooms, offices and electronic equipment.

Corrections staff contacted Whatcom County Facilities Department, which maintains the jail facility. The Bellingham Fire Department was also contacted and was able to turn off the main water line approximately 15-20 minutes later.

Flooding from the jail is an ongoing concern. Over the years, broken pipes (including sewage pipes) and inmate vandalism have led to numerous flooding incidents.

Estimated damages from this flooding are currently over $5,000.00 and growing. Probable cause exists to charge the inmate with Malicious Mischief First Degree.

“The water began seeping into the Sheriff’s Office administrative space, which is located below the jail. Large volumes of water penetrated portions of the Sheriff’s Office ceiling, causing significant damage to interview rooms, offices and electronic equipment.” ~Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office

Whatcom County Officials are preparing to place another jail tax on the November ballot for the third time in eight years. That measure would build a new and larger facility and include provisions for mental health and substance abuse treatment, along with programs to keep individuals out of jail.

My opinion? It’s time Whatcom County voted “Yes” to a new jail. It benefits all parties,  including inmates, the public and police. Clearly, the safety of Whatcom County’s police officers is at risk when hijinks like this take place.

Federal Prisons Want Inmates to Pay Victims

5 companies compete to build new Alabama prisons

Excellent article by Tilda Wilson reports that federal prisons want inmates to pay victims before making phone calls or buying shoes.

The Bureau of Prisons is considering a rule change concerning inmates who keep large sums of money in their prison accounts. The new rule would require that 75 percent of all the money family and friends send a person in prison go to pay their outstanding debts. These debts include paying restitution to their victims.

But lawyers and advocates for people in prison feel that the proposed rule goes too far. Shanna Rifkin, deputy general counsel for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, agrees that the Bureau of Prisons should not let wealthy inmates avoid restitution. However, she also thinks the proposed rule is too broad.

“It’s really like a sledgehammer, when you could bring a tool that was much smaller to address the problem.” ~Shanna Rifkin, Deputy General Counsel for Families Against Mandatory Minimums

Other advocates, like Ellen Degnan, a staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, argue the courts should fix the problem themselves by setting individual payment plans during sentencing.

“Courts can solve this problem. This is not for the BOP to meddle in.” ~Ellen Degnan, a staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center

Even advocates for people who are owed restitution are wary of the proposed rule. Bridgette Stumpf, executive director at the nonprofit Network for Victim Recovery of D.C., thinks the rule has the potential to get some victims restitution more quickly than they would otherwise. Still, she thinks the consequences need to be balanced.


Many of the people who would be impacted by the proposed rule do not owe victim restitution. Instead, they owe court fines and fees related to their initial sentencing.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons said that commissary accounts are a privilege. Officials will review public comments carefully. There is no deadline for a decision on this rule being made.

Jails and prisons are undesirable places. Please review Making Bail and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Some Federal Inmates May Stay Home After COVID Emergency Lifts

How to reduce the impact of coronavirus on our lives - The Washington Post

Excellent article from journalist   reports that federal inmates who were allowed to serve their prison terms at home during the COVID-19 Pandemic may remain at home.

The regulations are expected to provide some relief to inmates, who feared they could potentially be hauled back into prison when the public health emergency expires on May 11.

“This final rule makes clear that the Director of the Bureau of Prisons has the discretion to ensure that those who have made rehabilitative progress and complied with the conditions of home confinement are not unnecessarily returned to prison.” ~U.S. Attorney General Merrick.

Lynch reports that in March 2020, Congress authorized the Justice Department to declare an emergency so it could expand the pool of low-level, non-violent federal inmates who could qualify for home confinement, to contain the spread of the coronavirus throughout the federal prison system.

In January 2021, the department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a memo saying once the emergency is lifted, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) would have no choice but to “recall prisoners in home confinement to correctional facilities” because the authority to send more people home was temporary.

Criminal justice and civil rights groups have lobbied the Justice Department and the White House to change those rules to prevent inmates from being returned to prison en masse.

The The BOP will still be able to impose “proportional and escalating sanctions,” including a return to prison, on inmates who commit infractions.

Since March 2020, more than 12,000 inmates were placed into home confinement. Of those, the department said only a fraction of one percent were returned to prison due to new criminal conduct.

Please review Making Bail and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are incarcerated and charged with a crime. Jails are a great place to get COVID-19. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Finally, A New Jail in Whatcom County?

New Franklin County Jail Offers More Light, Open Spaces And Rehabilitation  Services | WOSU News

Excellent article in the Cascadia Weekly by Staff Reporters Ralph Schwartz and Jenelle Baumbach explores Whatcom County’s controversial effort to build a new jail.

Homelessness, mental illness and substance use disorders have increased. This increase heavily impacts Whatcom County’s already overburdened jail. County leaders are planning a November ballot measure for construction of a new jail intend to address these problems head-on. Whatcom voters have proven fickle, however, having defeated two other jail levies since 2015.


By the official count and by all accounts, homelessness is on the rise in Whatcom County. The annual Point-in-Time count showed a 69% increase in people experiencing homelessness from 2012 to 2022. Homelessness is also the norm among inmates in jail, according to a 2022 survey by the Stakeholder Advisory Committee. The group showed at least 73% of surveyed inmates were either homeless or couch surfing with friends or family.


Journalist Ralph Schwartz reports that Whatcom County’s drug problem is just as visible. Fentanyl users smoke openly on Bellingham’s streets, usually pulling a blanket over their head to trap the vapors.

Fentanyl overdose deaths are rising exponentially: 15 in Whatcom in 2020 and 25 in 2021, according to a state Department of Health dashboard; and at least 48 in 2022, county Medical Examiner Allison Hunt said on Feb. 27. The fentanyl problem is worsened by inmates sneaking it into Whatcom County’s jail. Recent Drug overdoses have reportedly happened.


The crime rate rose 9.1% in Bellingham from 2020 to 2021. This is according to the latest Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Crime in Washington annual report. A review of non-traffic crimes listed on the City of Bellingham’s crime statistics webpage shows a bigger jump in 2022: up 39% compared to 2021.


• Approximately 60% of people incarcerated in Washington state jails have substance use disorder.

•300,000 adults in Washington state have a serious mental illness.

• Nearly 23,000 people in Washington state are homeless, and approximately one in four of those people have a serious mental illness.

• The number of people needing services at Western or Eastern state hospitals increased from 996 in 2015 to 2,397 in 2022.

• In October 2022, there were 850 people in the state deemed incompetent to stand trial who were waiting for a bed at Western or Eastern state hospitals — a 142% increase from October 2021.

• Nationally, more than 2 million jail bookings a year are people with a serious mental illness. One in four people with a serious mental illness have been incarcerated at least once.

Jail is a terrible place. Please review my Making Bail legal guide and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Mentally Ill Are Decompensating in Washington Jails

Prisons have become warehouses for the mentally ill.

Great article by journalist Susannah Frame discusses the record number of inmates with mental illnesses suffering in jail.

Decades of research show that people with serious mental illness who are jailed experience steep declines in their mental health, This is especially true for inmates locked in solitary confinement. But in the state of Washington, the time spent behind bars for people who are mentally ill and waiting for court-ordered treatment is at an all-time high.

Washington is experiencing the biggest backlog in state history of mentally ill defendants sitting in jails. Amny of them are waiting for required services to restore their competency. This allows defendants the help they need to understand the charges against them and to participate in their defense.

In October 2021, approximately 350 defendants deemed incompetent to stand trial were waiting for a bed at Western State Hospital or Eastern State Hospital. In October 2022, the number was about 850 people, a 142% increase in one year, state records show. The numbers include people waiting both in and out of county jails.

“Jail is the worst place to be for a person who has a serious mental illness . . . It can really cause irreversible brain damage. And the longer that a person spends in untreated psychosis the harder it is for them to return to the same level of functioning once they’re receiving treatment again.” ~Lisa Dailey, Executive Director of the Washington DC-based Treatment Advocacy Center.

The state agency charged with providing services to mentally ill defendants, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Unfortunately, DSHS has been in “contempt” of a 2015 federal court order since July 2016. The order stems from a 2014 class action lawsuit, known as Trueblood. In the case, federal Judge Marsha Pechman ruled DSHS is violating the civil rights of defendants waiting in jail for services. She ordered that mentally ill defendants get a bed at a state psychiatric hospital within seven days. Currently some people are waiting seven months.

Massive Increase in Demand for Social Services

DSHS officials said the biggest challenge to moving people into mental health hospitals is the dramatic increase in demand. The number of people in jail ordered to receive in-hospital services jumped from 996 people in 2015 to 2397 people in 2022. That’s an increase of 141%.

“We knew ahead of time that services would be increasing over time. We knew that. But can you predict? Can you look into a crystal ball and know exactly what’s going to happen? No. Ideally, they would be in the community. They would be with their family, their friends, they wouldn’t be involved in the criminal justice system. The ultimate goal is to prevent them from having that interaction, to begin with.” ~DSHS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Waiblinger

DSHS has several construction projects underway to create more bed space and resources. Projects include a 58-bed facility on the grounds of Western State Hospital scheduled to open within months. These beds are designated for people charged with a crime who need competency evaluations or restoration services.

“It’s a very difficult time right now,” Waiblinger said. “(But) I am very hopeful that we can turn this around. I think we need to do something about creating more community resources.”

Jail is a terrible place, especially for those suffering from mental illness. Please review my Making Bail Legal Guide and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Right to Counsel At Critical Stages In Criminal Proceedings

Will Wearing an Orange Jumpsuit in Court Affect the Outcome? - Szar Bail Bonds

In State v. Charleton, the WA Court of Appeals held that even though a defendant lacks counsel at arraignment, this error is harmless because setting bail has no effect on the remainder of the case.


Mr. Charleton was arrested and held for 72 hours on allegations of a sex offense. During his initial appearance he did not have a defense attorney. After the State filed charges, the defendant appeared again without counsel. The court set bail and continued arraignment a few days. At arraignment, the defendant appeared with counsel and was granted release. The judge later found the defendant guilty of child rape and child molestation.

The defendant challenged his convictions on arguments that he lacked counsel at a critical stage of the proceedings. Therefore, this failure to appoint counsel violated the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and required reversal of his convictions.


The Court of Appeals (COA) gave a 5-part analysis of the legal issues below discussed below:

The Constitutional Right to Counsel Attached at Charlton’s First Two Court Appearances.

The COA explained that superior courts are required to process defendants  in court as soon as possible, “but in any event before the close of business on the next court day.” A court must provide a lawyer at the “preliminary appearance” pursuant to court rule. And the right to an attorney accrues as soon as feasible after the individual is taken into custody, appears before a judge, or is formally charged, whichever occurs earliest. Consequently, the COA reasoned that Mr. Charleton’s right to counsel attached after he was charged and appeared for arraignment.

Charlton’s First Court Appearance Was Not a Critical Stage of the Criminal Proceedings. However, Charlton’s Second Appearance Was a Critical Stage Because the Trial Court Addressed the Setting of Bail.

Here, the COA explained that a “critical stage” is one which a defendant’s rights may be lost, defenses waived, privileges claimed or waived, or in which the outcome of the case is otherwise substantially affected. Critical stages involve pretrial procedures that would impair defense on the merits if the accused is required to proceed without counsel.

Even Though Charleton’s Second Appearance Involving Bail Was a Critical Stage, His Appearance Without an Attorney Was Harmless Error.

The COA reasoned that an error is harmless if the State establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the verdict would have been the same result without the error. Here, the trial court’s imposition of bail on an unrepresented Mr. Charleston had no effect on his case resolution.

“Because of the court’s bail decision and the continuance of the arraignment, Charlton was in jail for an additional 10 days. His brief continued detention certainly did not pervade or contaminate the entire proceeding. Therefore, there was no structural error and we must apply the harmless error analysis.” ~WA Court of Appeals.

Accordingly, the COA affirmed Charlton’s convictions.

My opinion? Bad decision. Lack of defense counsel at bail hearings can potentially cripple a defendant’s ability to fight the charges. At arraignment, defense attorneys often argue bail and release conditions. A competent defense attorney can persuade the judge to lower the bail recommended by the prosecution. Even better, a defense attorney can persaude the judge to release the defendant on personal recognizance. Defendants who are released from jail are better positioned to assist in their defense. They can help locate  witnesses, enter treatment programs and contemplate substantive defenses.

Please review my Making Bail legal guide and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.